• Kyodo

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Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano on Tuesday sought Kenya’s cooperation on an African development conference in Tokyo in September, voicing hope that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki will attend.

Yano is the first high-ranking Japanese government official to visit Kenya since general elections were held here in December.

He made the request regarding the Third Tokyo International Conference on African Development following talks with Kenyan officials.

Regarding stalled Japanese loans for the Sondu-Miriu hydroelectric plant project, Yano said he would like to address the matter back home as a key bilateral issue.

He indicated a positive stance toward the resumption of funding.

Speaking to reporters here, Yano dismissed any link between the funding freeze and the scandals involving House of Representatives lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who has been charged with bribery and is also suspected of meddling in government-funded overseas aid projects.

The controversial project came under scrutiny in early 2002 amid allegations that Suzuki had reportedly tried to secure official aid for it in exchange for personal gain.

Japan pledged 6.9 billion yen in loans to Kenya for the first phase of the project in 1999. A Japanese construction firm began work right away.

The government later suspended the second phase of funding, however, citing concerns over Kenya’s ability to repay its debts and the project’s environmental impact.

Japan has frozen more than half of a promised $150 million loan for the Kenyan plant for nearly two years, citing pressure from environmental lobbyists and an unwillingness on the part of donors to fund the project.

The project, located along the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, is designed to add 60 megawatts to the country’s 1,147-mw power capacity.

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